Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

On the journalism watch

August 30, 2018

Two recent magazine articles of linguistic interest: from the Atlantic issue for September 2018, “Your Lying Mind” by Ben Yagoda, about cognitive biases; and in the New Yorker‘s 9/3/18 issue “The Mystery of People Who Speak Dozens of Languages: What can hyperpolyglots teach the rest of us?” (on-line title; “Maltese for Beginners” in print) by Judith Thurman.

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Involuntary memory

May 26, 2018

From Day 2 (May 25th) of the 2018 Association for Psychological Science’s convention in San Francisco:

“For many years, involuntary memories were ignored. I’m here to tell you what we have learned about this intriguing phenomenon,” said APS Board Member Dorthe Berntsen in the 2018 Presidential Symposium. Berntsen’s multi-decade body of research on this unique form of autobiographical memory has shown the wide-ranging influence of the memories that simply pop into our heads without intentional retrieval. She presented an impressive body of experimental findings on the role of involuntary memory across the lifespan in humans as well as in apes.

For some time, I’ve been collecting examples of one particular form of involuntary memory in my life — morning names, the expressions that come to me unbidden when I rise in the morning. There’s a Page on this blog listing my postings on them. So it’s nice to discover that there’s actually a research community working on involuntary memories.

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Discordance

May 25, 2018

Via Esha Neogy on the Our Bastard Language Facebook group, this Andertoon:

(#1)

Sentence 1 asserts that some text is grammatically active, but sentence 1 itself is a grammatically passive. Vice versa for sentence 2. Each sentence shows a discordance between a grammatical voice as the topic of a text and the grammatical voice of the sentence about that text. Not actually a contradiction, much less a paradoxical self-contradiction, but a language prank that flirts edgily with these possibilities.

What it is like is the discordance of the Stroop effect, where a color name and the color the name is presented in are at odds, as in this New Yorker cover by the artist Saul Steinberg:

(#2) In my 6/15/17 posting “For Saul Steinberg”, a discussion of the effect

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The Mankoff rat cartoon

November 15, 2017

On Language Log on October 5th, Mark Seidenberg, “Cartoonist walks into a language lab”:

[Bob] Mankoff’s involvement in humor research isn’t a joke. He almost completed a Ph.D. in experimental psychology back in the behaviorist era, which is pretty hard core. Before he left the field he co-authored a chapter called “Contingency in behavior theory”, as in contingencies of reinforcement in animal learning. The chapter included this cartoon:

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Housemates

May 19, 2017

The occasion is the discovery of more photo albums from the past, in this case the relatively recent past. One had photos of two friends who shared the Columbus OH house with Jacques and me in the 1990s: Philip Miller (during a postdoc year in linguistics at Ohio State) and Kim Darnell (while she was finishing her PhD in linguistics at Ohio State). Then there’s our last housemate before Jacques and I moved entirely to Californa, our bookfriend Ann Burlingham, who was working in Columbus bookstores at the time.

After teaching in (mostly) Lille, Philip is now in Paris. After years teaching in Atlanta, Kim is now in Palo Alto. And Ann has been in Perry NY (south of Rochester), where she owns and runs Burlingham Books, for some time now.

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What is figure, what is ground?

May 8, 2017

David Sipress in the latest (May 8th) New Yorker:

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“I can’t remember—do I work at home or do I live at work?”

Which is the ground — home (living place) or workplace — and which is the figure — working or living?

A question framed in the caption as a chiasmus, abstractly of the form X … Y / Y … X?

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Surprising authors and the Conan Doyle effect

August 12, 2016

“You’ll Never Guess Who Wrote That: 78 Surprising Authors of Psychological Publications” by Scott O. Lilienfeld (Emory University) & Steven Jay Lynn (Binghamton University): Perspectives on Psychological Science Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 419-41 (July 2016). The abstract:

One can find psychological authors in the most unexpected places. We present a capsule summary of scholarly publications of psychological interest authored or coauthored by 78 surprising individuals, most of whom are celebrities or relatives of celebrities, historical figures, or people who have otherwise achieved visibility in academic circles, politics, religion, art, and diverse realms of popular culture. Still other publications are authored by individuals who are far better known for their contributions to popular than to academic psychology. The publications, stretching across more than two centuries, encompass a wide swath of domains of psychological inquiry and highlight the intersection of psychology with fields that fall outside its traditional borders, including public health, economics, law, neurosurgery, and even magic. Many of these scholarly contributions have enriched psychology and its allied disciplines, such as psychiatry, in largely unappreciated ways, and they illustrate the penetration of psychological knowledge into multiple scientific disciplines and everyday life. At the same time, our author list demonstrates that remarkable intellectual accomplishments in one scientific domain, such as physics, do not necessarily translate into success in psychology and underscores the distinction between intelligence, on the one hand, and critical thinking and wisdom, on the other

A majot point of the study is that both popular writers and successful scientists in other fields are inclined to seriously underestimate the challenges of doing research in a number of subfields of linguistics — I mean, how hard could it be? — notably psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, historical linguistics, phonetics, semantics, and syntactic variation — all of which can fairly be said to be hard  that is to say, difficult, science — a point made clearly in the full article.

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Hiphop phrenology

July 2, 2016

In going through CDs for recent offers — specifically, in the Quirky / Eccentric music category — I came across a hiphop album “Phrenology” by the group Roots. The cover art:

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This is a phrenological chart with a black man as model, with jokey or politically tinged drawings for the regions.

And the parental advisory reflects the lyrics of the songs, heavily laced with the full range of taboo vocabulary and slurs. The track “Pussy Galore” is particularly notable.

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Making plans

July 2, 2016

An old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon in my comics feed on the 30th:

It’s all about achieving goals (in this case, to get to the other side of the lake) and  making plans to achieve those goals, involving subsidiary goals (in this case, to drain the lake) and plans to achieve those subsidiary goals (in this case, by bailing out the lake with a bucket).

Human beings can be remarkably clever at devising auxiliary goals to reach larger ends, sometimes in several layers; Calvin’s problems are not in the planning facility, but in the utter futility of the auxiliary plan he’s devised.

Some other animals show some ingenuity in subsidiary planning, at least in certain contexts and for certain kinds of goals; great apes are known for their cleverness. But some animals in some situations are just not prepared to do auxiliary planning, as anyone who’s dealt with dogs, even very smart ones, can attest.

Monday: attention, language stereotypes

June 20, 2016

Among today’s cartoons: a Calvin and Hobbes on the paradoxes of attention, and a One Big Happy on Italians behaving stereotypically, and stereotypes of the Italian language:

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